3 Things We Hope Happen in Westworld Season 2


Season one of Westworld has wrapped, tying up some loose ends and leaving others open for the future. Here’s what we expect to see going forward.

Note: For any viewers, human or otherwise, who need a refresher on the Westworld finale, we have a recap.

The robot revolution has begun. After 10 episodes of mysteries, twists, and existential crises, the first season of HBO’s Westworld culminated with Dr. Ford, the authoritarian mastermind behind the titular theme park played by Anthony Hopkins, getting shot by Evan Rachel Wood’s android heroine Dolores – at his request. Thanks to Ford, hosts are running rampant, free to kill humans.

So, what now?

Sunday’s finale did a nifty job of resolving the show’s remaining questions and character arcs. In fact, it would’ve made for a perfectly acceptable series finale. But showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy began working on season two a while ago, so evidently, they have more in mind for their Western dystopia.

Given how the events of “The Bicameral Mind” totally upended the status quo, we imagine that next season will look quite different. Anything is possible, really. Here are three things we hope Westworld will address when it returns.

Elsie and Ashley’s fate

Even in the age of Game of Thrones, it is unusual for a TV show to kill off characters at the rate Westworld did in its first season. We said goodbye to Ford and Sidse Babett Knudsen’s Theresa, and several other major characters’ fates hang in the balance. We’re particularly anxious to find out what’s going on with Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and Ashley (Luke Hemsworth), neither of who appeared in the finale.

Shannon Woodward in Westworld season 1, promo courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO

We last saw Elsie all the way back in episode six. The ambitious programmer had uncovered a couple big secrets – namely, that Theresa was stealing data from the park and someone changed the hosts’ prime directives – when someone grabbed her from behind. It’s later revealed that the mystery person was Bernard, who appeared to have strangled Elsie on orders from Ford. Ashley disappeared in episode nine when he decided to investigate a signal found in sector 20 apparently sent from a device belonging to Elsie. All he found, however, were Ghost Nation hosts, who ignored his commands and attacked. As we learned in the finale, Ford’s “new narrative” involves hosts that can harm, even kill, people. Was Ashley an early victim?

The simplest explanation is that they’re both dead. But there is just enough ambiguity to give us hope – or at least to sustain our denial. In a show that could get ponderous at times, Woodward and Hemsworth added a welcome touch of deadpan humor, and their presence in the cast would be sorely missed. The former especially got a raw deal; although technically a regular, she was gone for almost half the season. Of course, on this show, even if they are officially, permanently dead, characters could return in flashbacks or dream sequences. As the showrunners hint in a typically cryptic interview with Entertainment Weekly, there is “always an opportunity to revisit some of these characters.”

But there’s also this Easter egg. You can find it through the official Westworld websites if you are tech-savvy, or you can Google “Delos website Elsie transmission” and let someone else show you the way.

The location of Westworld

One of the odder secrets that Westworld kept throughout the season was its own setting. Prior to the finale, our only clues to the world beyond the park were Ford’s monologues about evolution (apparently, humans have found cures for all diseases) and the photos that the hosts occasionally glimpsed, like the one of Logan’s sister.

In the finale, we got another clue. When telling Maeve that her escape is part of a script, Bernard mentions that she’s supposed to reach “the mainland”. It’s a passing reference, easy to miss. You can also see the words “mainland infiltration” on Bernard’s tablet:

Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

So, Westworld is on an island. That doesn’t mean much, since we don’t even know for sure that the show takes place on Earth. But it’s a start. It also emphasizes the isolated nature of the hosts’ existence, making a possible escape that much more daunting.

Nolan and Joy insist in the above EW interview that they aren’t withholding information just for the sake of being enigmatic. “I think the rule we’ve built from the beginning… is you really only know as much as the hosts know,” Nolan says. “Our worldview is limited to theirs.” That isn’t quite true, since we’re also privy to the Westworld employees’ points of view, but it makes sense given how much the show pushes us to identify with the hosts rather than the humans. And it’s not like the world of Westworld isn’t vast as it is.

Still, knowing more about the “real” world would help put Westworld in context and explain why, as Dolores said, everyone out there is clamoring to get in here. Plus, we’re curious. At least we know now there are more parks besides Westworld. Hopefully, next season explores the “S” World (Samurai World?) that Maeve and company wandered into, and maybe it will introduce a few others.

Show, don’t tell

When giving Sizemore a covert mission on behalf of Delos, Charlotte Hale tosses out a tongue-in-cheek line: “Show, don’t tell. Isn’t that what you writers prefer?” The irony is that perhaps the most common criticism aimed at Westworld is that the show spent too much time telling us stuff, often through lengthy monologues.

The frustration is understandable; exposition isn’t generally the most fun thing to watch. But, at the risk of giving the writers too much credit, I would like to posit that there’s a reason for all the talking.

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld season 1, screenshot courtesy of HBO

All of the themes that Westworld explores – identity, consciousness, free will – ultimately link to one overarching theme: the nature of storytelling. The season’s most crucial moments tended not to be shootouts or reveals but rather conversations, either between two characters or between one character and him/herself. It fits with the show’s meta commentary on modern entertainment, emphasizing violence and other visceral pleasures as window-dressing that distracts from the real story, which is internal. Here, the dialogue – the hosts’ attempts to comprehend their developing consciousness – is the action.

That said, the show would benefit from changing things up next season. With Ford’s help, the hosts have acquired some semblance of true autonomy, so they should be more active now, more capable of pursuing concrete goals. Plus, Ford (presumably) won’t be around to lecture us ad infinitum. I’m intrigued by Nolan and Joy’s tease that season two will be “defined by chaos”, in contrast to season one, which “was defined by control”. If the first season was equivalent to a traditional, white hat-vs.-black hat Western, maybe the second season will stray more into Blood Meridian territory.

Let’s be real, though: I would be happy to watch these actors talk forever.

Related Story: Westworld Is HBO’s Most Watched Debut Show Ever

Westworld will return to HBO in 2018.